Friday, November 23, 2012

Lettie Lane's November Stroll

Lettie Lane's Autumn Stroll
One down, one to go, and I'm not sure I want to go there.  If you recall the Lemon Meringue dress with the yellow ribbon trim, you'll remember that I'd only made one of them.  Sewing rows of ribbon trim on a dress is not easy and takes alot of patience.  This one boasts nine rows.  Six on the dress, three on the belt.  I haven't yet figured a quick and easy way to do this, so I do it the only way I know how; eyeballing it.  Pins don't help.  When you begin to sew the trim on, it slides to the right due to the feeddog pulling the bottom fabric on the machine. So what I do is pull the ribbon gently to the left and sew very cautiously and slowly. 

Nine Rows of Ribbon
One of the things I'll remember about this dress was how lightbulb-genius I felt when I decided to make a sleeveless under-blouse to get the look. (I've been contemplating the design of this dress since first seeing the illustration.  It is entirely up to enterpretation, as it was drawn under the coat.)  I did the same thing for the navy blue sailor dress last spring, and come to think of it, had to sew rows of trim on that dress as well.  After feeling good about my decision to do this, I made an A-line, scoopneck "jumper" dress with gently puffed sleeves.  It was only when I went to sew on the trim that I realized this wasn't going to work. 

If you think about it, an A is wide at the bottom and slopes up, so sewing the trim on in straight rows was out of the question.  The only thing I felt I could do, in dismay, was cut 6.5" off from the bottom up, make it into a bodice and add a rectangle, gathered skirt.  Of course this would work because the rows would be straight.  And, it was only when I felt pleased with the dress and tried the coat on over it, that I just about cried.  The dress was longer than the coat, and I'd worked so hard to get the coat just the right length to stay true to the illustration.  Later, it occurred to me that I could have taken out the side seams of the dress and sewn the ribbon on this way, trimming the ribbon at an angle at the edge.  However, you would not have gotten the volume, and the result would also be "chunky" side seams.

I couldn't hem it up because the first row of ribbon trim was directly on the hemline.  So off the skirt came, and off came another inch of fabric from the top.  You might be wondering why the hem length wasn't reasoned out in the mock up.  Well, of course it was, but Lettie's dresses have generally been hemmed between the knee and calf.  Hems and collars, collars and hems!  Will they ever leave me be!

Sleeveless Under-Blouse
The Belt
The collar on the sleeveless "dickie" blouse came out perfect.  Probably the first collar that did.  But, what I love most about the dress is the belt.  Its a nice little three-rows-of-ribbon belt with wee matching buttons and thread loops to close it.  I did have to make it twice since the first one was not long enough.  And, its a good thing I had to purchase the ribbon in a great many yards, as some has found its way into the wastebasket.

Mock Up - Back to the Drawing Board
The coat was a nightmare.  I said it.  Yes, it took me six days to draft a sloper as I really didn't know what exactly I was looking at.  I knew it was a swing coat with fur collar and cuffs, and some kind of seam angles at the sleeves.  It wasn't until I discussed this with my friend, Laurie Wirthlin, that she told me these were raglan sleeves, and sent me photos of patterns similar to the one I was making.  The raglan sleeve connects the front pieces to the back and forms a shoulder that is also part of the curve of the neckline.  I know there are different styles of raglan sleeves, but this one is deep like a dolman sleeve, which was perfect since it was going over a dress with slightly puffed sleeves. 

The collar also caused me sleepless nights, since it kept popping up.  I eventually drew one that had a tight curve, and this enabled it to lay nicely.  The faux fur trim was fun to work with.  I chose this because of how nice and soft it felt.  For a doll's coat, normal real fur is just too long.  You'd want a sheared fur to get the right scale, and look, and the faux fur is already sheared.  There will be a time when I do work with real fur, and I'll have to shear it myself.  I have a nice box of scraps from Dimitha in Canada.

Working On Welt Pockets
This coat also had pockets.  Not patch pockets, but welt pockets.  I'd practiced making them on scraps of the velveteen, with deep linings.  I will advise should you ever make welt pockets yourself, make them long and deep.  The way a doll's arms and hands are jointed, will ease more nicely into large pockets.  I don't know if there is any interest in making welt pockets, but I did photograph the process for a quick tutorial.  The only scary part, is cutting into the fabric.  But, don't we do this with buttonholes?  Yes.  And, for now, buttonholes will be in the future.  Make a mistake with a buttonhole and the entire costume is ruined!  Surely I've practiced them with the attachment for my sewing machine, but I've never gotten a consistent thread.

This coat seemed to have it all.  Working with velveteen, lining with this slippery Ambience lining, an interesting swing style, raglan sleeves, welt pockets, fur trim and covered buttons.  It was quite the production!  I honestly believe this was the most difficult ensemble I've made to date.  However, if I'm not working on something challenging, I don't feel like I'm progressing.

Fashionable Gloves
Another new venture was making gloves.  After the success of this simple design, I think I'll be doing a few more and embellishing the design in the future.  This one does have a thumb, and is made with a stretchy costume fabric.  When you're pulling a glove over a doll's fingers, you need a perfect fit or they'll look sloppy or silly.  I started with a Bleuette "gant" pattern as my sloper and redrew and enlarged from there.  What I'd like to try are gloves with those little seamed rows on top.  I made the gloves as you would shoes.  I drew the pattern onto the doubled fabric, and pinned around the drawing to keep the fabric layers from slipping.  Then I sewed the stitches, twice!, and finally cut the gloves out and turned them inside out.

We've talked about hats, and the only thing I did differently to get the look was start with a buckram crown, but created a soft brim of just the velveteen.  The velveteen was thick enough to hold a shape, yet soft enough to give a soft-brim, warm look to it.  I had some pretty, deep-yellow chrysanthemums, and these made a perfect "color spot".  Brown stockings, and beautiful matching boots made by Fran Quinn of Fran's Heirlooms.

This outfit provided alot of challenges with many new avenues to go down.  Its one of those experiences that allow you to reflect that there's still so very much to learn.  A friend of mine recently wrote that "practice makes perfect" and that she'd made over 200 outfits for Bleuette.  Her work is impeccable.  Of this there is no doubt.  But, as I've reflected on this, the quest for perfection is simply that.  There will be no end to the limitless designs one can create in the art of dressing a doll, each one being different, each one requiring new skills.  The joy is in the creative process!

The holidays are upon us.  I feel wonderful, and believe that through the practice of designing seasonal ensembles, I've been able to more deeply enjoy each season and holiday.  Christmas will be a joy.  I will be designing skating ensembles for both Polly Pratt and Lettie, while my dear friend, Fran, will be making their skates.  I will even be designing my first outfit for American Girl - a work dress for Caroline that the company failed to make, but is prominently featured throughout her stories.

Miss E. Mouse
Lettie Lane's Skating Ensemble
Polly Pratt's Skating Costume

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